Can anyone deny that wrongdoing has been around since the beginning of humanity? Whether you believe in the book of Genesis, the Big Bang Theory, or somewhere in between, you must contend with the reality of evil and its presence in the world. Even if you believe people are inherently good or just neutral, you must find a way to explain the anomalies. Evil will be present as long as humans are.
As social injustices are being brought to light, there seems to be an unspoken idea that we can arrive somewhere and that issues will be solved eventually. The question is, will we? Are we progressing towards an ultimately correct sense of right and wrong or are we accelerating in a hand-basket for hell?
Good and bad ebb and flow throughout history. There have been times of war and times of peace. Dickens’ opening line in A Tale of Two Cities describes the good and the bad occurring simultaneously during the French Revolution. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The author of Ecclesiastes, Pete Seeger, and The Byrds all agree there’s a time for loving and hating, for killing and healing, for crying and laughing.
The British Empire abolished chattel slavery officially in 1807 and it took the United States almost 60 years after that to do the same. Yet, there are more slaves today than in all of human history (Slavery: End it in our Lifetime).Abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973 but today that is being challenged and abortion is being restricted in certain states. War crimes are committed and oppressive powers reign today. A growing call for peace and acceptance is on the banners of people’s hearts in the face of racism, economic devastation, and impoverished standards of living across the world. “Retarded” was a medical diagnosis but it’s now (appropriately) a slur. We’re bucking long-held stigmas while developing a regularly-replaced lexicon of political correctness.
I rejoice in the “heartbeat bill” being passed in Georgia this year, the outlawing of abortion of babies who have a detectable heartbeat (Kim and North). I rejoice that I and others have become more aware of the daily struggles of our neighbor through intentional conversation and relationship. But I lament for the babies less than 6 weeks into growth, for the racial injustices yet occurring, that these things ever happened. We aren’t improving as a whole. Humanity is improving in certain ways and walking backward in others. This cycle will repeat itself until the end of time because we are sinful and social beings.
We can’t expect finality on any issue. We can work towards growth but it will always be a battle up a mountain without a visible peak. We haven’t developed a more accurate sense of morality in comparison to previous generations.
In God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis wrote, “All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook…I read the controversies of past ages [and] both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny” (Lewis and Hooper). Could it be that our sense of right and wrong is simply a pinball bouncing in an unpredictable pattern?
To ask, “Is the world getting worse or better?” and hope to have a real answer, you have to first identify world and then realize it’s too general a question to be answered. But if it must be answered, the answer is yes.
– Scot Bellavia